Texas Senate Passes Legislation to Protect the San Marcos River

(AUSTIN) —The Texas Senate yesterday (Monday) overwhelmingly approved legislation by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, that would promote safety and enjoyment on the San Marcos River and protect landowners’ private property rights.

Senate Bill (SB) 234 would authorize a local election to create a special recreation district along the portion of the San Marcos River that forms the boundary between Guadalupe and Caldwell counties, which is visited by more than 80,000 tubers and recreational users each year. The number of visitors to the river, especially for tubing, has increased substantially in recent years.

Due to a lack of rules and enforcement, however, this section of the river attracts minors who drink illegally and engage in other reckless and unlawful behaviors. As a result there are frequent alcohol-related incidents on the river ranging from minor to catastrophic in nature. Last summer, for example, 19-year old Tychicus Foston drowned after a day of tubing and drinking alcohol with friends. What’s more, landowners along the river face problems with excessive littering, trespassing and public intoxication.

“Residents of Caldwell and Guadalupe counties do not want any more preventable tragedies to occur on the San Marcos River,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Our bill would protect this precious natural resource, enhance public safety and enjoyment of the river and preserve the private property rights of area landowners.”

If voters approve, the district would be governed by a seven-member board, with three members appointed by each county commissioner’s court and one member selected by the district board from among nominations provided by each municipality included in the district. Once created, the district could levy a fee on water-oriented recreation businesses and use the revenues to fund public safety and health initiatives.

The bill caps the fee to be charged at $3 per person for rental of water oriented recreation equipment (tubes, canoes, kayaks) or for shuttle services for water oriented recreation if a customer brings their own equipment.

The district’s board also would have the ability to adopt reasonable rules and ordinances regarding littering and litter abatement and other rules to protect the health and safety of persons or property in the district, subject to the public’s paramount right to navigate inland water.

Offenses would be a Class C misdemeanor and would be enforceable by local law enforcement.

Many local business owners testified at the bill’s committee hearing that their businesses, including campgrounds, fly fishing guides and canoe and kayak rental services, have been damaged by the unruly and lewd behavior of intoxicated and frequently underage minors using the river.

“Because SB 234 would promote safety and a clean environment, we believe it would increase safe and lawful tourism to the area,” Senator Zaffirini said. “All Texans have the right to enjoy the San Marcos River, but they should do so safely and lawfully.”

SB 234 is supported by the commissioners’ courts of Guadalupe and Caldwell counties and the City of Martindale. The bill now goes to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration. Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, will sponsor it. He also authored the companion bill, House Bill 2635.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI visits with constituents at the historic Zedler Mill on the San Marcos River in Caldwell County.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI visits with constituents at the historic Zedler Mill on the San Marcos River in Caldwell County.

Texas Legislature Approves Bill Naming McMullen County Highway in honor of Game Warden James E. Daughtrey

(AUSTIN) —The Texas Legislature unanimously approved Senate Bill 227  by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, naming a portion of a McMullen County highway in honor of Game Warden James E. “Jim” Daughtrey, who died in the line of duty.

Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, in the House of Representatives, the bill would name the portion of Farm-to-Market Road 624 in McMullen County from the La Salle County line to State Highway 16 the Texas Game Warden James E. Daughtrey Memorial Highway.

Warden Daughtrey was killed in a car crash on Dec. 8, 1978, while he was pursuing game law violators. He was survived by his wife, Cynthia Ann, who died in 2014; two daughters, Laura Kay and Jean Ann; and a son, James Eugene III.

“Though his tragic death occurred almost 40 years ago, James Daughtrey’s life, service and sacrifice have not been forgotten,” Senator Zaffirini said. “It is entirely fitting that the highway set to bear his name crosses the county he called home and the wild South Texas Brush Country he loved so much.”

The Texas Game Warden Association will donate funds to pay for the design, construction and erection of the highway signs.

Senator Zaffirini’s bill, which was supported unanimously by the McMullen County Commissioners Court, now goes to Governor Greg Abbott for his consideration.

The fallen game warden also is the namesake of the James E. Daughtrey Wildlife Management Area on Choke Canyon Lake in Live Oak and McMullen counties.

THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE recently passed legislation by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, naming a McMullen County portion of Farm-to-Market Road 624 in honor of Texas Game Warden James E. Daughtrey, who was killed in the line of duty in 1978. (Illustration by Clemente Guzman, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.)

THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE recently passed legislation by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, naming a McMullen County portion of Farm-to-Market Road 624 in honor of Texas Game Warden James E. Daughtrey, who was killed in the line of duty in 1978. (Illustration by Clemente Guzman, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.)